Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, KG, GCB, GCH, PC, FRS (c. 1 May 1769 – 14 September 1852) was an Anglo-Irish British Army soldier and statesman, widely considered one of the leading military and political figures of the first half of the nineteenth century. Commissioned an ensign in the British Army, he rose to prominence in the Napoleonic Wars, eventually reaching the rank of field marshal.
As a general Wellington is often compared to the 1st Duke of Marlborough, with whom he shared many characteristics, chiefly a transition to politics after a highly successful military career. He was twice Tory Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and was one of the leading figures in the House of Lords until his retirement in 1846.
1 Early life and marriage
1.1 Early career
2 Later military campaigns
3 Wellington as soldier
4 Later life
6 Titles and honours
6.1 Peerage of the United Kingdom
6.2 British and Irish honours
6.3 International honours and titles
9 Dubious quotations
10 Personality traits
11 In Popular Culture
12 The Duke of Wellington's Government, January 1828 – November 1830
13 The Duke of Wellington's Caretaker Government November 1834 – December 1834
14 See also
18 External links
Early life and marriage
Wellington was born The Honourable Arthur Wesley at the then 4 Merrion Street, Dublin opposite the then Royal College of Science now government buildings. He spent most of his childhood at Dangan Castle 5km north of Summerhill on the Trim road. He was the third of five surviving sons of Garret Wesley, 1st Earl of Mornington. His date of birth is the first of May 1769. (His baptismal font was donated to St. Nahi's Church, Dundrum, in 1914.) His biographers follow the contemporary newspaper evidence in ascribing it to 1 May 1769. His family changed the spelling of their surname to Wellesley, which his oldest brother considered the ancient and proper spelling, in 1798.
He came from a titled English Protestant family long settled in Ireland. His father was the Earl of Mornington, his eldest brother (who inherited his father's earldom) became Marquess Wellesley, and two of his other brothers were raised to the peerage as Baron Maryborough and Baron Cowley.
Wesley was educated at Eton from 1781 to 1785, but a lack of success there, combined with a shortage of family funds, led to a move to Brussels in Belgium to receive further education.
Until his early twenties, Wesley showed no signs of distinction. His mother placed him in the army, saying "What can I do with my Arthur?" He became a nobleman playboy, carousing and gambling. He fell in love with the daughter of another Anglo-Irish peer, The Honourable Kitty Pakenham, and proposed marriage, but was rejected by her family as having no prospects. It seems likely that, at least in part, the shock of this rejection caused him to reform his bad habits: he minimized his drinking, stopped gambling and even burned his beloved violin. He also began a rigid course of self-education in military science, something that was to be taught by no professional academy in Britain for another decade. He volunteered for service in the Netherlands and India, and achieved spectacular successes, rising in a decade to the rank of general, never losing a battle, and winning considerable prize money from grateful rajahs. On returning to Ireland, he immediately renewed his marriage proposal to Kitty Pakenham before even seeing her again, and possibly without even having corresponded with her for ten years. This time, her family accepted him but, on seeing how Kitty had grown old in his absence, Wellesley seems to have quickly regretted his decision. However, a promise was a promise: their marriage lasted the rest of her life, producing two sons and a great deal of loveless anguish. The elder son, Arthur, inherited the title and the younger, Charles, became a Major-General.
In 1787 his mother and his brother Richard purchased for Arthur a commission as ensign in the 73rd Regiment of Foot. After receiving military training in England, he attended the Military Academy of Angers in France. (He also learned fluent French there and an appreciation for the ancien régime.) His first assignment was as aide-de-camp to two successive Lords Lieutenant of Ireland (1787–1793), but his duties were more social than military. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1788. Two years later, he was elected as an independent member of Parliament for the family owned seat of Trim in the Irish House of Commons, a position he held for seven years. He gained rapid promotion (largely by purchasing his ranks, which was common in the British Army at the time), becoming lieutenant colonel in the 33rd Regiment of Foot in 1793. He participated in the unsuccessful campaign against the French in the Netherlands between 1794 and 1795, and was present at the Battle of Boxtel. He remarked later that "At least I learned what not to do, and that is always a valuable lesson."
In 1796, after a promotion to colonel, he accompanied his regiment to India. The next year his elder brother Richard was appointed Governor-General of India. When the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War broke out in 1798 against the Sultan of Mysore, Tipoo Sultan, Arthur Wellesley was given charge of an army division. After that war, his brother appointed him (despite cries of nepotism) to be Governor of Seringapatam and Mysore, positions he held with distinction until 1805. He reformed the tax and justice systems in his province, and he defeated and killed the robber chieftain Dhundia Wagh, who had escaped from prison in Seringapatam during the last battle of the Mysore War. Characteristically, he then sent Dhundia's orphaned son to England for a proper education. In the Maratha War of 1803, Wellesley commanded the outnumbered British army at Assaye and Argaum, and stormed the fortress at Gawilghur. On one occasion, he outgalloped the Mysore soldiers pursuing him and avoided being killed. (In fact, he had uncanny good luck life-long: despite exposing himself on the front lines for over twenty years, he was never wounded, injured or captured.) Through his own skill as a commander, and the bravery of his British and Sepoy troops, the Indians were defeated at every engagement. Following the successful conclusion of that campaign, he was appointed to the supreme military and political command in the Deccan.
In 1804, he was created a Knight of the Bath, the first of numerous honours he received throughout his life. When his brother's term as Governor-General of India ended in 1805, the brothers returned together to England, where they were forced to defend their imperialistic (and expensive) employment of the British forces in India. India had taught him to abandon the common habit of infrequent bathing, and he is usually credited with popularising the custom of daily bathing in his own country. More importantly, campaigning in the arid reaches of Central India gave Wellesley thorough practice in logistics, while dealing with cautious-to-commit Indian allies taught him diplomacy. Both skills would prove invaluable in the future fighting in Portugal and Spain.
Wellesley served in the abortive Anglo-Russian expedition to north Germany in 1805. After Austerlitz, the forces went home having accomplished nothing. Junior command in an expedition to Denmark in 1807 led to Wellesley's promotion to lieutenant general. Meanwhile, he was elected Tory member of Parliament for Rye for six months in 1806. A year later, he was elected MP for Newport on the Isle of Wight, a constituency he would represent for two years. He served as Chief Secretary for Ireland for two years. In April 1807, he became a privy counsellor. However his political life came to an abrupt halt when he sailed to Europe to participate in the action against French forces in Iberia.
Later military campaigns
Portrait of the Duke of Wellington by Francisco de Goya, 1812-14.
Reenacters of the 33rd Regiment of Foot Wellingtons Redcoats who fought in the Napoleonic Wars between 1812 - 1815 here showing the standard line 8th CompanyIt was in the following turbulent years that Wellesley won his place in history. Since 1789, France had been embroiled in the French Revolution. Napoleon seized its government in 1799, and reached the heights of power in Europe, eventually ordering the invasion of Spain and Portugal in 1807. The next year, Wellesley was preparing to command an expedition to Venezuela, when the Spanish revolt began the Peninsular War and he was sent to Portugal instead. Wellesley defeated the French at the Battle of Roliça and the Battle of Vimeiro in 1808. Unfortunately, he was superseded in command immediately after the latter battle. General Dalrymple insisted on associating the available government minister (Wellesley) with the controversial Convention of Sintra, which stipulated that the British Royal Navy would transport the French army out of Lisbon with all their loot. Wellesley was recalled to Britain to face a Court of Enquiry. He had agreed to sign the preliminary Armistice, but had not signed the Convention, and was cleared.
Meanwhile, Napoleon himself entered Spain with his veteran troops to put down the revolt, and the new commander of the British forces in the peninsula, Sir John Moore, died during the Battle of Corunna, January 1809.
Although the war was not going particularly well, it was the one place where the British and the Portuguese (their oldest ally) had managed to put up a fight against France and her allies. (Compare it to the disastrous Walcheren expedition, which was typical of the mismanaged British operations of the time.) Wellesley submitted a memorandum to Lord Castlereagh on the defence of Portugal, stressing its mountainous frontiers and advocating Lisbon as the main base because the Royal Navy could make it impregnable. Castlereagh and the cabinet approved the memo, and appointed him head of all British forces in Portugal, raising their number from 10,000 men to 26,000.
Quickly reinforced, Wellesley took the offensive in April 1809. First, he crossed the Douro river in a brilliant daylight coup de main, and routed the French troops in Porto. He then joined with a Spanish army under Cuesta. They meant to attack Marshal Victor, but Napoleon's brother, King Joseph Bonaparte, reinforced Victor first, and the French attacked and lost at the Battle of Talavera. For this, the winner was ennobled as Viscount Wellington of Talavera and of Wellington. With Marshal Soult threatening their rear, the British were compelled to retreat to Portugal. Deprived of the supplies promised by the Spanish throughout the campaign and not told of Soult's movement, Wellington never again relied on Spanish promises or resources.
In 1810, a newly enlarged French army under Marshal André Masséna invaded Portugal. British opinion both at home and in the army was uniformly gloomy--they must evacuate Portugal. But Wellington first slowed the French down at Busaco, then blocked them from taking the Lisbon peninsula by his magnificently constructed earthworks, the Lines of Torres Vedras, brilliantly assembled in complete secrecy, and with flanks guarded by the Royal Navy. The baffled and starving French invasion forces retreated after six months. Wellington followed and, in several skirmishes, drove them out of Portugal, except for a small garrison at Almeida, which was placed under siege.
In 1811, Masséna returned toward Portugal to relieve Almeida, but Wellington narrowly defeated the French at the battle of Fuentes de Oñoro. Meanwhile, Wellington's subordinate, Viscount Beresford, fought Soult's 'Army of the South' to a bloody standstill at the Battle of Albuera. In May, Wellington was promoted to general for his services. Almeida fell, but the French retained the twin fortresses of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz, the 'Keys' guarding the roads through the mountain passes into Portugal.
In 1812, Wellington finally captured Ciudad Rodrigo by pouncing as the French went into winter quarters and storming it before they could react. Moving south quickly, he besieged the fortress of Badajoz for a month and captured it in one bloody night. The Storming of Badajoz is famous as the only time he ever lost his composure in public, breaking down and crying at the sight of British dead in the breaches.
His army now was a British force reinforced in all divisions by units of the resurgent Portuguese army, rebuilt by Beresford. Campaigning in Spain, he routed the French at Salamanca, taking brilliant advantage of a minor French mispositioning. (This was the first time a French army of 50,000 had been routed since 1799.) The victory liberated the Spanish capital of Madrid. As reward, he was created Earl and then Marquess of Wellington and given command of all Allied armies in Spain.
He attempted to take the vital fortress of Burgos, which linked Madrid to France, but failed due to a lack of siege equipment. The French meanwhile abandoned Andalusia, and converged those troops with their other armies to put the British forces into a precarious position. Wellington skilfully withdrew his army and, joining with the smaller corps commanded by Rowland Hill, retreated to Portugal. (Marshall Soult actually held a numerical advantage over Wellington in November, but hesitated to attack, so fearful had he become of the British commander.) Still, the victory at Salamanca had forced the French to withdraw from southern Spain, and the temporary loss of Madrid irreparably damaged the prestige of the pro-French puppet government.
In 1813, Wellington led a new offensive, against the French line of communications. He struck through the hills north of Burgos, and unexpectedly drew his supplies from Santander (on Spain's north coast), rather than from Portugal. He personally led a small force in a feint against the French centre, while the main army (commanded by Sir Thomas Graham) looped around the French right, leading to the French abandoning Madrid and Burgos. Continuing to outflank the French lines, Wellington caught up with and smashed the French in battle at Vitoria, for which he was promoted to field marshal. However, the British troops broke discipline to loot the abandoned French wagons instead of pursuing the beaten foe. Wellington, in his official after-battle report, furiously and famously called them "the scum of the earth, enlisted only for drink".
A few months later, in 1814, after taking the small fortresses of Pamplona and San Sebastián, Wellington invaded France and laid siege to Toulouse, occupied by the French army under Marshal Soult. The siege was brought to an end once news arrived of Napoleon's surrender. Napoleon was later exiled to the island of Elba.
Hailed as the conquering hero, Wellington was created Duke of Wellington, a title still held by his descendants. (Since he did not return to England until the Peninsular War was over, he was awarded all his patents of nobility in a unique ceremony lasting a full day.) He was soon appointed ambassador to France, then took Lord Castlereagh's place as First Plenipotentiary to the Congress of Vienna, where he strongly advocated allowing France to keep its place in the European balance of power. On 2 January 1815, the title of his Knighthood of the Bath was converted to Knight Grand Cross upon the expansion of that order.
On 26 February 1815, Napoleon escaped from Elba and returned to France. Regaining control of the country by May, he faced a renewed alliance against him. Wellington left Vienna for what became known as the Waterloo Campaign. He arrived in Belgium to take command of the British-German army and their allied Dutch-Belgians, all stationed alongside the Prussian forces of Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher. The French invaded Belgium, defeated the Prussians at Ligny, and fought an indecisive battle at Quatre Bras, compelling the British army to retreat to a ridge on the Brussels road, just south of the small town of Waterloo. Two days later, on 18 June, came the titanic Battle of Waterloo. After an all-day fight, with the Anglo-Allies standing firm under merciless French shelling, the French were finally discomfited by the unexpected arrival of Blücher's Prussian army. The French Imperial Guard was then dramatically repulsed by British volley fire, and Napoleon's army routed in panic. On 22 June, the French Emperor abdicated once again, and was transported by the British to distant St Helena. The battle of Waterloo was instantly canonized as one of The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World.
Wellington as soldier
Most of Wellington's battles were tactically defensive; he held a strong position and defeated the attackers by a volley from infantry delayed until it would have maximum possible effect, and followed up with an infantry charge in counterattack. When possible, as at Bussaco and at Waterloo, he deployed his troops on the far slope of a hill, so they could be repositioned or committed as reserves out of sight and out of artillery shot of the enemy. These deployed troops were in line formation, as would be expected for defensive tactics, while the attackers might be in column formation. Keeping formed bodies of troops out of the line of sight of the enemy was common practice for all armies. He was perhaps more adept at using concealment and surprise than other generals.
He could be very aggressive. In his Indian battles, he frequently attacked at unfavourable odds (he was outnumbered seven to one at Assaye), because he believed that the show of British morale would cow his more brittle, less disciplined Indian opponents. His river crossing at Oporto was a breathtaking gamble, but he quickly learned that dash and daring were too chancy against regular French troops. Only after years of patience, when he had achieved both moral and material ascendancy over the French army (in 1813), did he engage in another aggressive campaign, one which thrust them out of Spain.
He could be very cautious. Although he held the battlefield after the Battle of Talavera, he was compelled to make a strategic retreat back to Portugal. If Marmont had not tried to pen in his army at Salamanca and destroy it, he would have been compelled to retreat there also; and afterwards he preferred the political prize of Madrid to pursuing the defeated army, now under Bertrand Clausel. Since the total number of French troops in Spain always heavily outnumbered the available number of British and Portuguese troops, it was always possible for the French command to abandon some region, as they did after Salamanca, in order to concentrate a larger army than the British; Wellington was therefore always cautious during his incursions into Spain.
All his sieges were successful, with the exception of Burgos. Most of these were in India, against Indian armies of worse training, arms, and morale than the French; he may have been overconfident at Burgos. Wellington had to retake the frontier fortresses (like Almeida) several times, because the French were equally successful in capturing them from the Allied garrisons. Also, he did not have the time for lengthy, Vauban-style sieges, because the French would have been able to gather up relieving forces. Hence, his brief and bloody, though successful, assaults on Ciudad Rodrigo and on Badajoz.
He disliked his cavalry commanders. He wrote a famous letter on July 18, 1812, accusing the cavalry of being unable to manoeuvre except on Wimbledon Common, and of always charging in a body, instead of forming in two lines - one to charge and one as a reserve. Of course, until 1815, he was denied the talents of the brilliant Henry Paget because of the family feud between them.
He acted as his own head of intelligence, and closely supervised both the supplying and the payment of his troops.
Much of his energy was diverted to political aims: shoring up his support in the Britain and Spanish governments, lobbying for his choice of officers, and cultivating the cooperation of the Portuguese and Spanish populations. While the French army alienated the latter by seizing their food and shooting anyone who resisted them, Wellington imported most of his food from abroad, paid cash for what he needed locally, and exercised strict discipline over his troops, regularly hanging men for looting, rape, murder, or desecration of religious sites. The locals repaid him with obedience, enlistment and information on French movements. In particular, the guerrilleros (partisans) operated in fairly close cooperation with British troops against the French.
He did not encounter Napoleon before 1815, and Waterloo did not show either of their tactics at their best. Napoleon had no time or room for grand manoeuvres, and Wellington's hastily gathered forces were not capable of them.
The Duke of Wellington in later lifePolitics beckoned once again in 1819, when Wellington was appointed Master-General of the Ordnance in the Tory government of Lord Liverpool. In 1827, he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the British Army. Along with Robert Peel, Wellington became one of the rising stars of the Tory party, and in 1828 he became Prime Minister.
During his first seven months as Prime Minister he chose not to live in the official residence at 10 Downing Street, finding it too small. He only relented and moved in because his own home, Apsley House, required extensive renovations.
As Prime Minister, Wellington was the picture of the arch-conservative, fearing that the anarchy of the French Revolution would spread to England. Oddly enough, the highlight of his term was Catholic Emancipation, the granting of almost full civil rights to Catholics in the United Kingdom. The change was forced by the landslide by-election win of Daniel O'Connell, an Irish Catholic proponent of emancipation, who was elected despite not being legally allowed to sit in Parliament. Lord Winchilsea (George Finch-Hatton, the 10th earl) accused the Duke of having "treacherously plotted the destruction of the Protestant constitution". Wellington responded by immediately challenging Winchilsea to a duel. On March 21, 1829, Wellington and Winchilsea met on Battersea fields. When it came time to fire, the Duke took aim, Winchilsea kept his arm down, the Duke deliberately changed aim and fired wide to the right, and Winchilsea did not fire. Honour was saved and Winchilsea subsequently wrote Wellington an apology. In the House of Lords, facing stiff opposition, Wellington spoke for Catholic emancipation, giving one of the best speeches of his career . He had grown up in Ireland, and later governed it, so he knew firsthand of the misery of the Catholic communities there. The Catholic Relief Act 1829 was passed with a majority of 105. Many of the Tories voted against the Act, and it passed only with the help of the Whigs.
The epithet "Iron Duke" originates from his period of Prime Minister, during which he experienced an extremely high degree of personal and political unpopularity. His residence at Apsley House was the constant target of window-smashers and iron shutters were installed to mitigate the damage. It was this, rather than his characteristic resolute constitution, that earned him the epithet of "The Iron Duke".
Wellington's government fell in 1830. In the summer and autumn of that year, a wave of riots (the Swing Riots) swept the country. The Whigs had been out of power for all but a few years since the 1770s, and saw political reform in response to the unrest as the key to their return. Wellington stuck to the Tory policy of no reform and no expansion of the franchise, and as a result lost a vote of no confidence on 15 November 1830. He was replaced as Prime Minister by Earl Grey.
The Whigs introduced the first Reform Act, but Wellington and the Tories worked to prevent its passage. The bill passed in the House of Commons, but was defeated in the House of Lords. An election followed in direct response, and the Whigs were returned with an even larger majority. A second Reform Act was introduced, and defeated in the same way, and another wave of near insurrection swept the country. During this time, Wellington was greeted by a hostile reaction from the crowds at the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, and eventually the bill was passed after the Whigs threatened to have the House of Lords packed with their own followers if it were not. Though it passed, Wellington was never reconciled to the change; when Parliament first met after the first election under the widened franchise, Wellington is reported to have said "I never saw so many shocking bad hats in my life". During this time Wellington was gradually superseded as leader of the Tories by Robert Peel. When the Tories were brought back to power in 1834 Wellington declined to become prime minister, and Peel was selected instead. Unfortunately Peel was in Italy, and for three weeks in November and December 1834, Wellington acted as a caretaker, taking the responsibilities of Prime Minister and most of the other ministries. In Peel's first cabinet (1834–1835), Wellington became Foreign Secretary, while in the second (1841–1846) he was a Minister without Portfolio and Leader of the House of Lords.
The Duke's funeral procession passing through Trafalgar Square.Wellington retired from political life in 1846, although he remained Commander-in-Chief of the Forces, and returned briefly to the spotlight in 1848 when he helped organize a military force to protect London during that year of European revolution. He died in 1852 at Walmer Castle (his honorary residence as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, which he enjoyed and at which he hosted Queen Victoria). Although in life he hated travelling by rail, his body was then taken by train to London, where he was given a state funeral - one of only a handful of British subjects to be honoured in that way (other examples are Nelson and Churchill) - and was buried in a sarcophagus of luxulyanite in St Paul's Cathedral next to Lord Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson.
1st Duke of Wellington astride Copenhagen his charger in Matthew Wyatt's statue on Round Hill, AldershotIn 1838 a proposal to build a statue of Wellington resulted in the building of a giant statue of him on his horse Copenhagen, placed above the Arch at Constitution Hill in London directly outside Apsley House, his former London home. Completed in 1846, the enormous scale of the 40 ton, 30 feet high monument resulted in its removal in 1883, and the following year it was transported to Aldershot where it still stands near the Royal Garrison Church.
The capital city of New Zealand is named Wellington in honour of Wellington. The city has a private preparatory school named Wellesley College and a private club, Wellesley Club. The city of Auckland, New Zealand, has a central city road named Wellesley Street after Arthur Wellesley.
Mount Wellington, which overlooks Hobart, the capital of the state of Tasmania, Australia is named after Wellesley.
Beef Wellington gets its name from the general and prime minister.
HMS Iron Duke, named after Wellington, was the flagship of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe at the Battle of Jutland in World War I.
Wellington Street in Ottawa, Canada is named after Wellington. It is the street upon which the Parliament Buildings, Canada's seat of government are located.
Wellington Square in the Adelaide suburb of North Adelaide, South Australia, is named after Wellington, for the reason that he is credited with securing the passage of the South Australia Foundation Act through the British House of Lords.
Wellington County in Ontario, Canada is named after Wellington. It is the county surrounding the city of Guelph, Ontario.
Wellington's likeness appears on the beer labels of the beer brewed by Wellington Brewery in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
Wellington College, Berkshire, UK, was built in memory of the Great Duke, under the orders of Queen Victoria. To this day, all the boarding houses are named after the generals who fought alongside him at the Battle of Waterloo, including Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, Viscount Beresford, Sir Thomas Picton, Baron Lynedoch, and the Prince of Orange. As recently as May 4th, 2007, the school held a memorial service for the Iron Duke at St Paul's Cathedral, London, to commemorate his birthday.
The Wellington Testimonial was erected in the Phoenix Park, Dublin from public subscriptions, and the obelisk and plinth are still a major feature of the park.
Wellington Road is in the Ballsbridge area of Dublin.
Titles and honours
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Baron Douro, of Wellington (4 September 1809)
Viscount Wellington (of Talavera and of Wellington) (4 September 1809)
Earl of Wellington (28 February 1812)
Marquess of Wellington (3 October 1812)
Marquess Douro (11 May 1814)
Duke of Wellington (11 May 1814)
His brother William selected the name Wellington for its similarity to the family surname of Wellesley, which derives from the village of Wellesley, not far from that of Wellington.
Military Heritage published a feature on Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, time and conflicts in India on behalf of the British East India Company (aka East India Tea Company) and the British crown (Charles Hilbert, Military Heritage, August 2005, Volume 7, No. 1, pp.34 to 41), ISSN 1524-8666.
Guedalla, Phillip, The Duke. London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1931.
Hutchinson, Lester. European Freebooters in Mogul India. New York: Asia Publishing House, 1964.
Longford, Elizabeth. Wellington: The Years of The Sword. New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1969.
Mill, James. The History of British India. 6 vols. 5th ed. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1968.
Brett-James, ed. Wellington at War 1794–1815, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1961.
A collection of the Duke’s letters. Beatson, Alexander. A View of the Origin and Conduct of the War with Tippoo Sultaun. London: Bulmer and Co., 1800.
Holmes, Richard. Wellington: The Iron Duke. London: Harper Collins Publishers, 2002 ISBN 0-00-713750-8